Parity rules in the NFL, a reason the league has seen five different Super Bowl champs over the past five seasons. Every team, it seems, has a chance each year to put together a successful season.
However, there are some teams that miss out on that success more often than others. Two clubs have gone more than a decade without making the playoffs, and several others have been sitting at home in January for a handful of years.
Here are the teams with the longest current playoff droughts.
Note: Date listed is year of the regular season in which team qualified for playoffs, not year the playoff games were played.
Lions / 1999 — Detroit actually had a better record in 2000, 9-7, than when it last made the postseason in 1999, finishing at 8-8. Detroit limped into the playoffs with four consecutive losses and then fell 27-13 to the Redskins in the wild-card round. It has been pretty ugly in Detroit since then, including the winless '08 season. But led by QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and one of the league's better defensive lines, the Lions appear to be turning their fortunes around this season.
Bills / 1999 — It's fitting that Buffalo's most recent playoff memory is the "Music City Miracle," when they gave up a last-second kickoff-return TD to the Titans in the wild-card round. Led by QB Doug Flutie and WR Eric Moulds, the Bills notched their eighth season with double-digit wins in the 1990s. The team has had one winning season since (9-7 in 2004). This year's squad, though, is off to a good start, running head coach Chan Gailey's spread attack. It won't be easy to sustain, though, with two games apiece coming up vs. the Patriots and Jets.
Browns / 2002 — QB Kelly Holcomb entered the season finale and helped guide Cleveland into the '02 postseason, where they fell 36-33 to the Steelers despite Holcomb's 429 passing yards and three touchdowns. Having to play both the Ravens and Steelers twice each season doesn't help Cleveland's cause, but QB Colt McCoy is reason for hope that the drought could end sooner than later.
Texans / 2002 — The team most likely to end its drought this season, the Texans have never made the playoffs in their 10-year franchise history. Houston had a 25-23 record from 2007-09 but never sniffed the postseason. With a high-powered offense and an improved defense, 2011 looks like the Texans' best chance to break through, especially in a weakened AFC South that doesn't have Peyton Manning.
Raiders / 2002 — Super Bowl XXXVII was the last postseason game for the Silver and Black, who have had some rough seasons since taking that loss to the Buccaneers. Six different head coaches have run the team since '02, and the same number of quarterbacks has led the team in passing in that span. The Raiders think they finally have the QB problem figured out with Jason Campbell and are hopeful that Hue Jackson stops Al Davis' coaching carousel.
49ers / 2002 — After Joe Montana came Steve Young, and after Young came Jeff Garcia. After Garcia left the team in '03 — well, that's when things went wrong. The Niners have not been able to find a good quarterback in nearly a decade, passing up the chance to select Aaron Rodgers No. 1 overall in '05 and instead going with Alex Smith. Rodgers won a Super Bowl title in Green Bay, and Smith is still trying to put together a season in which his team wins more games than it loses when he starts.
Rams / 2004 — St. Louis made the playoffs five times between 1999 and '04 but hasn't been back since, as the franchise has fallen on hard times, including a 1-15 record in '09. As a result of that horrible season, however, the team was able to draft QB Sam Bradford, who is considered the player most likely to return the Rams to the playoffs in the near future. As a member of the downtrodden NFC West, that could happen as soon as this season.
Broncos / 2005 — Behind head coach Mike Shanahan and QB Jake Plummer, the Broncos made it all the way to the AFC championship game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Steelers. Since then, there have been multiple changes on the sideline and under center, two of the reasons why Denver has not returned to the playoffs. And with a young roster, it might be a while longer before the Broncos reach the postseason tournament.
PFW associate editor Kevin Fishbain contributed to this article.